'Appreciation motivates a chef to do better'

In remembrance

In a chef’s life, not all food he cooks can be good. You are working with a team and to get the best results, the chef needs to have a good bond with the team members,” says Chef Machindra Umakant Kasture (MU Kasture), who was the first resident chef of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

When former President Pratibha Patil was elected, Kasture got a call from the President’s House for an interview. “I wasn’t prepared at all for the interview. On being asked to cook some Maharashtrian dishes, I tried my hand at some traditional recipes like ‘Masala Bhaat’, ‘Moth ki Ussal’ and ‘Puran Poli’. I was called again the next day and introduced to madam (Patil) who casually asked me, ‘Would you like to work at Rashtrapati Bhavan?’ That was the most precious moment of my life,” Kasture tells Metrolife.

For eight years, Kasture worked as the executive chef to the President of India at Rashtrapati Bhavan, cooking for some of the highest dignitaries of the world including Pranab Mukherjee, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Barack Obama to name a few.

“Madam always said that the best way to win a person’s heart is by giving them good food,” adds Kasture, who is currently working as executive chef at The Ashok.   

Sharing his experience, Kasture recalls how at that time, the kitchen at President’s House did not have much equipments. He says that apart from introducing a lot of innovative dishes like ‘Pineapple ka Halwa’, ‘Sitafal ka Halwa’, ‘Sabuddana Wada’ and ‘Tondli Soup’, the professional setup of the kitchen was all done by him.

“Around 150 to 200 people visit Rashtrapati Bhavan
every day. The Gandhis were some of the very regular visitors. So I had to keep myself prepared for VVIP food at all times,” he says, adding that quality of the food and its health quotient were top priorities.

“I was always conscious that the food must be easy to digest and contain less oil and fat. Also, I made sure that the food was flavoursome and was cooked by steaming, boiling or roasting instead of frying,” he explains.

However, despite serving for eight years, appreciation came in bits and pieces for Kasture. He says that after every high tea, lunch or dinner, he used to wait for at least an hour for feedback.

“My boss, Omita Paul used to give me feedback after every occasion. But the high dignitaries never complimented. As far as they had no complaints, I knew that the dishes were liked by everyone.”

“Appreciation is very important. Even though one cannot expect it from
dignitaries, appreciation does motivate a chef to do better,” he adds.

Having recently won the National Tourism Award under the ‘Best Chef of India’ category, Kasture now looks forward to another opportunity to for work at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

“Even though it is a behind- the-curtain job, I would still love to cook for VVIPs of the world, if given a chance,” he says.

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